Coming Soon: Free 3D Firmware Upgrade for Sony's Nex-3 and Nex-5 Cameras

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Still photography just got a major upgrade. By downloading a free firmware upgrade from Sony, Nex-3 and Nex-5 owners who have been confined to capturing pictures in two dimensions (width and height) can add depth. Viewed on a big-screen 3D TV from Sony, Panasonic or Samsung, among other manufacturers, the third dimension can elicit jaw-dropping reactions from viewers. I should know. I just witnessed my first 3D slide show.

We plugged a Nex-3 into a Bravia XBR-52HX909 LED LCD HDTV with 3D using a high-speed mini-to-standard HDMI cable. I then used the TV's remote to advance the show. I donned a pair of Sony Active Shutter Glasses. The images, shot in Hawaii, opened with a railroad trestle on a rural landscape that appeared to spill off the screen. Remarkably, as I walked toward the sides of the TV, the trestle seemed to move, following me about 60° in each direction from the center of the screen. The feeling was uncanny.

The upgrade for the Nex-3 and Nex-5 (right) should be available from Sony in July. Using the 3D Sweep Panorama mode, the models are able to capture 3D using a single lens. Upon pressing the shutter, you pan across the subject as the camera shoots a burst of frames, interspersing images intended for the left and right eyes. Viewed on a conventional screen (including the camera's LCD, a computer, or a non-3D TV, pictures will be fuzzy and colors will appear out-of-register. But viewed with 3D glasses on a 3D TV, the images will be sharp and radiate depth. The cameras are not capable of shooting video in high-def, even with the firmware update. Remarkably, we also viewed some 3D pictures that did not appear to have been shot in a panoramic mode, though a Sony spokesperson told us that it was probably just a short burst in the 3D Sweep Panorama mode.

A lot has been written about 3DTV for showing movies, sports and games. It's only now that we're hearing about its potential impact on conventional still photography. After all, if you love width and height, you'll love depth. For more information about Sony's 3D TV sets, click here.

The trestle appears to bend toward the 3D glasses-adorned blogger when he stands in front of the TV. The picture's clarity and true colors can't be appreciated in this photo. Cable on left links camera to HDMI input.